Remembering Sheila Casey

The author with Howie and Sheila Casey, 2011
The author with Howie and Sheila Casey, 2011

The singer died in the early hours of December 16 after a long and brave battle with cancer. She is survived by her husband Howie.

As the McKinley Sisters, Sheila and her sister Jeanette made a string of charming white bread pop singles in the early to mid-1960s, performing Sweet and Tender Romance on Ready Steady Go, as well as touring with and befriending the Beatles who joined their fan club, borrowed their make up and were taught to say “It’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht” by their mother.

Luminaries such as Donovan and Jimmy Page played on the McKinleys’ records and they also sang with the Rolling Stones, the Hollies, James Last and Ringo Starr.

With Jeanette and future husband Howie Casey, Sheila was an integral part of the mid-70s funk-rock supergroup Paice Ashton & Lord, appearing on their 1977 album Malice In Wonderland.

Sheila also appeared with Howie, who led The Seniors, Liverpool’s first Merseybeat band, and went on the play and record with Paul McCartney in Wings from their Band on the Run album until the group went on permanent hiatus in 1980, on records by George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

In 1979, Howie and Sheila moved to Bournemouth and although they worked all over the world, they also made their presence felt on the local music scene, most notably as mainstays of The Slobs rock ’n’ soul outfit. They toured extensively with a variety of acts and continued to appear regularly at Beatles’ festivals and conventions in Liverpool and Hamburg.

In September, they played at the Marc Bolan 35th Anniversary Concert at Shepherd’s Bush Empire with Marc Almond, Steve Ellison, T-Rextasy, Glen Matlock, Sandie Shaw and Tony Visconti.

The McKinley Sisters, early 1960s
The McKinley Sisters, early 1960s

Without the likes of Howie and Sheila Casey superstar songwriters like Paul McCartney would struggle to make their music vision a reality.

To label them as Backroom People is to do them a gross disservice and yet that is frequently how they are treated by history. But neither would complain and although they both have stories about the artists they have worked for, to their credit, they protect the names and reputations of the stars.

Sheila Casey was that rare thing – a supremely talented artist, yet humble enough to remain a wonderfully warm human being. And if this Christmas we hear the heavenly host singing with a more recognisably blues-rock roar, we’ll know why.

God bless Sheila … and don’t forget to put us on the guest list!

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